Sir Roger Gale
Member of Parliament for North Thanet (Margate, Herne Bay & The Villages)
Gale's View from Westminster - December 2016
December. The Grim Reaper is in the ascendant. Genocide in Aleppo, blood on the streets in Berlin and Ankara, and from Hollywood to London the Stars are falling. Vlad “The War Criminal” Putin hacks for Russia, the hacks of the media are in denial, President-elect Trump backs the Russians against his own security services, present and past UK servicemen are on the rack, Brexit is back in court, the rail, postal and airline unions are out or threatening out and lining up for a Christmas of Discontent backed by Red Jerry. Her Maj engages in a little light divestiture, Prince Harry does a dog-leg for Miss Markle, Wiggo hangs up his cycle clips, it`s Strictly Come Retirement for Len Goodman and ask not for whom the Whitechapel bell tolls.
At the risk of simultaneously encroaching on 2017 and tempting fate it appears that the United Kingdom has been fortunate enough to have survived the past year without a terrorist attack upon our civilian population. I say “fortunate” enough but, as I have suggested before, it is a curious fact that the more vigilant we are the more “fortunate” we get. The fact of the matter is, as those of our number who are privy to security briefings are acutely aware, that a significant number of embryonic terrorist attacks on the UK mainland have been interdicted and that is the result of a lot of hard and dangerous work conducted by courageous operatives working and embedded deep within the organisations that wish us harm and we owe these forever unsung heroes a huge debt of gratitude. They may not all have a “double 0 ” prefix or a “license to kill ” but, as I once said to the head of MI 5 “I don`t know what you are doing and I do not want to know but I am hugely relieved to know that you are doing it”. Our job in parliament may be to hold our security services to account but from my vantage point on the back benches our over-riding duty is, in the interests of the safety of our Country, to give them the utmost facility, resources and support.
Shortly before Christmas the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe met in Paris. I happen to be a member of that august body and was therefore privy to demands made by Austrian and Swedish socialists – not a partisan point but a matter of fact – that Turkey should drop its State of Emergency in the interests of `human rights`. To be fair this was before the terrorist bombing of Ankara, before the shooting of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey and, of course, well before the New Year`s nightclub murders that left more than forty people dead and sixty nine seriously injured in Istanbul. I am no lover of dictatorships, elected or otherwise, and President Erdogan is sailing very close to that wind in his desire to eliminate – and I use the word advisedly – “Gulanist” opposition within his armed forces, judiciary, education systems, media and political opposition and the Council of Europe is right to demand access to Members of Parliament and journalists imprisoned at present without trial. That said, the man has the devil on his back in the form of a (failed) coup attempt, some three million plus refugees from Syria that includes, of course, Daesh infiltrators and the small matter of the PKK Kurdish “resistance” responsible for most if not all of the domestic bomb attacks upon urban civilians. France, still reeling from the Bataclan attacks a year ago and the Nice truck slaughter had, the day before our discussions, renewed its own state of emergency provisions and anyone who visited the Christmas market in the Champs Elysee will have been reassured to find it, as were the railway stations, swarming with armed policemen. Not surprisingly our French socialist parliamentary colleagues took a rather different view of `human rights` from some of their colleagues who have not faced recent terrorist attack or, as in our own case, years of threat from the IRA followed by the London tube bombings. Armchair warriors do not keep people safe and there is a balance that has to be struck between the “rights” of the few and the security of the many and my own scales are weighted heavily in favour of the latter. All this, of course, also took place before a hijacked polish truck was driven through the crowds drinking mulled wine and eating sausages in the Christmas Market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin that left twelve people dead and fifty more hospitalised. Unfortunate, therefore that the European Court of Justice chose to rule, just two days after this attack, that Britain`s surveillance provisions are “incompatible with EU law” and that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) should only embrace “targeted retention”. This, of course, is precisely the kind of ill-judged, meddlesome and arrogant lunacy that has led the good people of Britain to vote to leave the European Union. “Get stuffed” is the most diplomatic and printable observation that springs to mind.
I have long opined that the Schengen agreement has been responsible for a tide of economic migration that has nothing to do with asylum and that has facilitated the free movement, pan-European, of those who wish us harm. The Bataclan murderers travelled seamlessly across the continent and the Berlin truck assassin, having shot the legitimate driver of the stolen vehicle and done his dirty work, was able to leave the scene of the crime and move without documentation via Frankfurt, Lyon and Chambery to Milan where he then took a metro to the end of the line planning, it is surmised, to join others of his persuasion. Had it not been for an alert if rookie Italian policeman who had the wit to challenge the Tunisian Aris Amin and then shoot him dead the man would almost certainly by now be back in North Africa and planning his next atrocity. Jean-Claude Druncker`s flagship obsession with `free movement` is a busted flush and, with or without Britain, the Schengen Agreement has been tried, failed, has had its day. If the Liberal elite in Brussels will not do the job then it is highly likely that a hard-right that is in the ascendant in Germany, France and elsewhere may find themselves in a position to give it the coup de grace after elections due in 2017.
Talking of the European Court of justice, which we were in passing, there are those naïve enough to believe that once we leave the European Union the dispensation of justice will be repatriated and all will be well. Setting aside those who ought to know better than to conflate the ECJ with the European Court of Human Rights, a Council of Europe body that Britain has not, to date, voted to leave, there is every indication that our own Supreme Court, once it has the reins of absolute judicial power in its hands, will be every bit as capricious or robustly independent, depending upon your point of view, as the ECJ. The Article 50 hearings took place during December and it will be sometime early in the New Year before their Law Lordships determine whether the Darling Bud will be allowed to exercise the Royal prerogative in her capacity as Prime Minister or whether it will require an Act of Parliament with all of the attendant hazards and hurdles, before the will of the British people, as expressed in the EU referendum, can be implemented. Mr Farridge, who boldly declared June 23rd as “Independence Day” following the vote, is large on mouth but short on this knowledge of British parliamentary procedure. He may, for all I know, be well-versed on the workings of the European Parliament but back at home we depend upon, amongst other things, a majority in both Houses to pass legislation and we have no Council of ministers or unelected Commission to impose the will of the Executive. I do not doubt for one moment that Mrs. May is sincere in her determination to trigger Article 50 by the end of March and I shall support her in the voting lobby to try to make that happen but much, up to and including the possibility of a General Election, may yet intervene if the British Supreme Court decides, as seems at present likely, that the Government has exceeded its powers in trying to impose the Royal Prerogative. If that happens some of my hard-line colleagues on the right of the Conservative parliamentary party had better be ready to explain to the British public why the rule of British law has to prevail and why we cannot just “do it” as they have hitherto been suggesting. At present, in this less-than-United Kingdom, we still try to abide by parliamentary democracy and we still have a duty to recognise the authority of our own Courts.
There is a generation, of which I am a part, that has a tendency to commence its` saloon bar observations` with “we fought the war in order to…….”. Somewhere, in the ensuing ramble around the` glory days` of ice on the inside of window panes, prolonged rationing that denied shops access to bananas and oranges and sweets, the pre- `Tide is coming in` use of the washboard and the clothes line, the frostbite of 1947 , long walks to school, death by pneumonia before the introduction of anti-biotics and the chaos generated by thousands of servicemen and women returning to the UK and trying to work out what to do with their lives, you will hear the words “bloody foreigners”. This was long before a few thousand West Indians came to Britain to conduct our buses and to humiliate us by teaching us how to make cricket interesting and light years before Enoch Powell made or did not make the “rivers of blood” speech. This generation did not, of course, fight the war at all. We were in our cots and the battles that were fought for us by our parents were fought in order that we might live not in isolation but in freedom. Churchill and others did not create the Council of Europe as a massive, corrupt, overweening, interfering pan-European bureaucracy: they established it as a forum intended to generate debate rather than armed conflict and in the hope that it might obviate another holocaust.
I mention this now because I am about to move self-indulgently into `rant mode`. Die-hard English nationalists, particularly those with high blood-pressure, are not going to take kindly to what follows and would do well to either skip to the next section or hit the delete button. The time would be better spent returning to one of those seminal and graphically illustrated works of the 1950`s such as “The Scourge of the Swastika” and recalling why the Second World War was really fought.
That unpleasantly xenophobic comic, The Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid, expressed in an editorial published just after Christmas the view that “As Russia`s Vladimir Putin experiments with cyber-warfare, flexes his muscles in Syria and the Baltic and probes the Royal Navy`s defences the threat of attack remains ever with us…..there could be no more insane a time to countenance a real-terms cut in our defence spending. Yet this is what is happening as the weaker pound threatens our front-line capability. Nothing matters more than defence. We drop our guard at our mortal peril.”
I do not often agree with anything that appears in The Daily Mail but on this occasion Mr. Dacre, or Mad Max, or whoever penned the piece, makes at least half a fair point. With President-elect Tramp luke-warm on NATO, engaging in bromance with Putin and looking to the United States` `Pacific era` and away from Europe, the heir to Vladimir Ulyanov and that Georgian dreamboat, Joe Stalin, poses a threat not just to the Baltic States and to the Balkans but to the whole of Europe. There is still a bear in the woods and, as we have seen not only in Aleppo through the bombing of hospitals and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians but also in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova the bear is able and willing to bite. The former UK Ambassador to Moscow who said recently that “Putin will never ever invade the Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania” has uttered words that may yet come back to haunt him.
Unfortunately – and this is where the pro-Brexit Daily Mail, along with the Telegraph, the Express and the Sun are in denial – is that at the very moment that we face a resurgence in neo-Soviet power under Putin they have been brainwashing the British public into believing that everything in the post-Brexit rose-garden will be lovely . We are, therefore, about to break our ties with an organisation which, for all of its many and very real faults, offers the best potential and realistic bastion against aggression both from Russia and from terrorism. Mr. Dacre`s hacks suggest that “the weaker pound threatens our front-line capability”. It does. Our US-ordered F35 stealth fighters, sub-hunting aircraft and other vital hard and software are going to cost the UK whole shedloads more as an absolutely direct result of the fall in the value of the pound sterling against the dollar following the Brexit vote. It is as tangible an effect as the reduction in the value of UK pensions paid in sterling to residents within Europe and further afield and who have seen their incomes dramatically reduced as a result. Is this reported anywhere in the populist press? No. The BWT and other newspapers , having had to swallow the lie that the `side-of-the-bus` £350 million “saving” that has been spent many times over from our contributions to Brussels does not exist, simply call for more money. From where? At a time when Chancellor Hammond is having to hedge every bean against an uncertain trading future are they now campaigning for higher taxes? Somehow we will make Brexit work, because we have to, but it is past high time for the Gentlemen of the Press to wake up, grow up, take some responsibility for the mess that their populist circulation wars have generated and start telling people the truth. Brexit will happen, but it will come at a price in healthcare, education, social services and – yes – defence. Small wonder that the man in the Kremlin was so pleased by our decision to leave, rather than seek to reform, the European Union.
Are we facing a `winter of Discontent`? If the Unions represented by comrades Mick Cash, (RMT) Mick Whelan and Tosh McDonald (ASLEF), backed by Shadow Chancellor, the Leader of the Opposition `Red Jerry` Corbyn who, at a pre-Christmas ASLEF party called for s standing ovation for Mr. McDonald, and the co-Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP, recipient of some £75 k from rail unions, are anything to go by the answer is “yes”. It is hard to feel much sympathy for the company currently operating Southern Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway, who were offering a grim service before the “who closes the doors on trains” industrial action started. They have made a pig`s ear of the franchise and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling must privately be wishing to get shot of them as soon as possible. In the meantime, however, hundreds of thousands of commuters are having their daily working lives disrupted by antediluvian strike action motivated by a desire “to overthrow capitalism” in the words of the RMT`s Assistant General Secretary Steve Hadley. It matters not to these Neanderthal activists, one of whom was confronted at a prolonged pub party by a young friend of mine, that the `working people` that the unions and their Momentum supporters purport to represent cannot get to and from work, are losing jobs and seeing relationships break up as a result of a politically-motivated synthetic row over a procedure that is already in practice on many rail lines. The Union cats, some of whom are very fat indeed, will have their final day with the support, disgracefully, of the Corbyn front bench. Not surprising, therefore, that a “lifeboat plan” has been devised by moderate Labour back-benchers to try to preserve something from the wreckage of Labour`s sinking ship should there be a snap General Election in 2017. One MP (Jamie Reed, Copeland. Lab majority 2564) has already indicated that he is quitting parliament at the end of January to take a job in industry, generating an unwelcome by-election that Labour may well lose if the result of the pre-Christmas by-election in Sleaford is anything to go by. Yes, it was a Tory seat with a thumping majority but Dr Caroline Johnson, the new Conservative Member not only preserved her share of the vote but saw the UKIP vote cut by 13.5% and Labour knocked into fourth place by the Liberal Democrats. Red Jerry apparently stormed out of a Christmas karaoke session held in that local watering hole The Westminster Kitchen. The Brothers and Sisters were enjoying renditions of “Back in the USSR” and the Blairite anthem “Things can only get Better” and Red Jerry left with the words of Labour peer Lord Brooke ringing in his ears: “Why don`t you do a Hollande”. It looks as though for Corbyn, in 2017, Things Can Only Get Worse.
For better or for worse on the other side of the Atlantic? As Borat and Michelle prepare to vacate the O`Bama White House the real President of the United States has taken the pins out of a couple of grenades and lobbed them in the direction of his successor. First, he has signed off a ban on the drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Tramp may be a global warming denier but Borat is a believer and it remains to be seen whether President Tramp will seek to overturn a binding executive action. We know that Tramp is opposed to windfarms, particularly in Scotland where they have threatened to blight the view of his `ancestral ` golf courses if a string of some sixteen letters to Alex Salmond are to be believed, but there is just a chance that Borat may have slammed the door on further despoliation of some of earth`s last wildernesses in the interests of yet more carbon fuel. The Tramp`s chosen one as Secretary of State, is rex Tillerson, a re-cycled oil executive whose prime claim to fame hitherto appears to have been an ability to `do deals` relating to oil and gas exploitation with one Vladimir Putin. This has, no doubt, made Mr. Tillerson very rich but is he rich enough to buy the inquisitors in the House of Representatives when they come to scrutinise his appointment to one of the highest offices in the United States? That question is likely to cost more than the fabled $64,000 to answer but if he gets the green light then you can kiss your borealis goodbye. The second little bomb ticking away is the fallout from Borat`s expulsion of thirty-five neo-soviet diplomats from America and the closure of two “recreation”, for which read “espionage” centres in the wake of revelations relating to Putin`s interference in the American Presidential process via a team of hackers. There are those, including The Tramp, who believe that Putin has been “clever” in not responding to this action choosing instead to invite US diplomats` children to Kremlin Christmas parties where they will, presumably, have been given bugs in their party-bags. The Tramp, though, now faces a dilemma. He is clearly reluctant to acknowledge that Ivan might have had a hand in his electoral college “victory” and indeed is on record as saying that he wants to “move on to bigger and better things”. You bet your sweet bippy he does! There is, though, what promises to be an uncomfortable meeting with the security services scheduled for after he has taken the oath and when he will be allowed to see evidence that is, so far as his eyes are concerned, at present still classified. He also faces further Congessional inquiry into the now well-substantiated hacking and there are still some Repupublican Congressmen and women left who believe that national security is rather more important than personal ambition or Presidential convenience. As a foot note The Tramp made phone contact with Taiwan in a breach of protocol that was only ever going to annoy the Chinese. China kidnapped an American underwater drone prompting the semi-literate President-elect to tweet that this was an “unpresidented” (sic) act of aggression. “Unpresidented” is a good word. We may have cause to return to it in the future.
In other news we are told that a thousand retired former serving men and women are facing what has been described as, and certainly sounds like, a `witch-hunt` as the Police service of Northern Ireland`s “Legacy Investigation branch” embarks upon an inquiry into every British Army killing during `the troubles`. Does that include the deaths of all of those soldiers and men and women and children murdered at the hands of the IRA? No, of course it does not because `Legacy` Blair granted amnesty to the most serious killers as part of the “settlement”.
Austria`s right-wing Freedom Party challenger for the top job, Norbert Hofer, is beaten by the Alexander Van Der Bellen, former leader of the Green Party. Hofer, Leader of an outfit founded from the ashes of the Nazis in the 1950`s and whose first fuhrer was a member of the SS was tipped to become Europe`s first hard-right trailblazer, paving the way for, amongst others, a 2017 win for Marine Le Pen in a France where Mr. Holland has announced that he will not be standing again. That, by the way, would be the same Ms. Le Pen who, it is said, has received funding through a Russian-owned bank.
In Italy Mario Renzi put his office on the line in a referendum over constitutional reforms and he lost. Another in the growing list of European leadership elections that will take place in 2017 and in that context and with an eye on a serious challenge from Alternatif fur Deutschland Frau Merkel talks of banning the burkha. Back at home, Farridge , fresh from triumphant photo-opportunities with The Tramp and with the offers of Hollywood movies ringing in his ears, criticises the Archbishop of Canterbury for the sermon delivered at Justin Welby`s sung eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day. The Most Reverend Justin had the temerity to suggest that in a `divided Britain` we were now `occupying a different kind of world` and that there were those (surely not the Braying Mantis?) that were engaged in `inexcusable pandering to people`s worries and prejudices that is giving legitimisation to racism`. Proceed with caution Justin: we`ve already lost one turbulent priest on the altar steps in Canterbury and we don`t want to lose another. The Mantis has powerful friends – as he never stops tiring of telling us.
The hoteliers and restaurateurs of St. Tropez are up in arms. Under an EU directive private planes from non-Schengen areas, which includes the United Kingdom, Russia and the Middle East, have been barred from landing because St. T airfield is “not a recognised border entry point”. When we say “freedom of movement” we don’t really mean “freedom of all movement”!
A spat broke out over Theresa May`s £995 rather classy lederhosen as displayed during a recent photo-shoot. The sacked former education minister, Nicky Morgan, asked “how am I going to explain this extravagance in Loughborough market”? Presumably, runs the answer, by deploying the same justification that she uses to justify her own vastly expensive taste in handbags. Life is not fair. Nobody questioned the cost of Prime minister Cameron`s extremely smart suits. £3.5 k a piece is rumoured to be the price tag but personally I like my Prime Ministers, of whatever sex, to look statesmanlike.
Ex RAF Drill Sergeant James Patterson of Broxtowe has found himself facing a two and a half thousand pound fine for displaying an `unofficial` Father Christmas flag from an unauthorised flagpole. The offending pole, over 4.6 metres high, did not have planning consent it seems and constitutes `unauthorised advertising`. Question: what is an “official” Father Christmas flag and how, precisely, does one establish the true identity of the applicant when there are so many imposters on the streets and lurking in Grottos around Yuletide?
Sister Sarah Kitch has been suspended by the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for `offering to pray` with patients. Mrs. Kitch has, it is said, `engaged in unwanted discussions` with those under her care. The spirit of Florence Nightingale is clearly alive and well and living in Dartford.
A conundrum. Cornwall County Council believes that a nine year old girl should, instead of using a bus pass to travel the 3.1 (ie over three miles) journey to her school but should walk the 2.7 miles using a lane as a shortcut. Immediate reaction “We used to walk miles to and from school each day”. Yes, we did, but in 21st Century Britain at half past seven in the morning in the dark down an unlighted half-mile footpath? On this occasion I`m with the parents: I would not have let my daughter do it on her own.
We have, it seems, managed to spend some £285 million of UK taxpayers` money building what has turned out to be a completely unusable airfield on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. This masterpiece, which was supposed to relieve the `Saints`, as the inhabitants are known, of a lengthy sea-voyage to South Africa or the UK, was not tested for crosswinds prior to construction.
The BBC Woman`s Hour `power list` for 2016 reveals Margaret thatcher at number one and also includes Barbara Castle and, inevitably, Germaine Greer. No place for Mo Mowlam or Betty Boothroyd but a slot for `Bridget Jones`. Has nobody told Woman`s Hour that Ms. Jones is a fictional character?
Ed Milipede has made it onto NBC news. In the background, illustrating the risks of `flu, was our unmistakable hero blowing his nose. Library shots can be misleading on occasions.
Kings College London has removed its portrait of Archbishop George Carey from its alumni Wall of Fame along with another portrait of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The University`s `gaystapo` have decided that these opponents of the 2013 same-sex Couples Act do not `capture the spirit of diversity` that the Christian institution seeks to embrace.
Loo roll cartons and egg boxes, staple of the Blue Peter “and here`s one I made earlier` features, have been banned from primary school craft classes `because they might spread disease`. For once even the Health and safety Executive is on the side of sanity describing this imposition as `an unrealistic response to minimal risk`.
Fawlty Towers` Manuel, Andrew Sachs, has switched off 86. The mad Spanish waiter (“He`s from Barcelona”) had previously featured in The Saint , Randall and Hopkirk and the history of Miss Polly before teaming up with John Cleese to make television history.
Crimper to the stars of the 60`s Leonard of Mayfair, born Leonard Lewis on the White City council estate behind Television Centre, styles his last at 78. He was responsible for the coiffures of the Krays, Christine Keeler and, on occasions, JFK. His Eton crop turned Lesley Hornby into Twiggy and Brian Epstein`s Beatles received their Mop Tops at his hands. At his 6 Upper Grosvenor Street salon Vidal Sassoon`s protégé also titivated Jean Shrimpton and transformed David Bowie into Ziggy Stardust.
Emmerson Lake and Palmer`s Greg Lake has succumbed to cancer at 69. Born in Poole in Dorset Lake, together with Keith Emmerson and Carl Palmer notched up six platinum record albums with ELP.
The first US astronaut to orbit the earth, John Glenn, is now looking down on us again at 95. After his flight in Friendship Seven in 1962 and twenty-four years in the US Senate representing Ohio Colonel Glenn went on to become the oldest man in space when at seventy-seven he joined the crew of Discovery in 1988. Prior to his first space adventure he had already flown fifty-nine missions in the US Marine Corps during World War Two.
Sunday Times columnist A A Gill described himself as having a “full English” of cancer when he departed at 62. His colleagues remember him as “funny, fearless and passionate”.
Jim Prior was first elected to represent Lowestoft in 1959, a seat that he held for five years. Re-elected in 1970 he became Ted Heath`s Leader of the Commons, was Margaret Thatcher`s employment Minister in 1979 and Northern Ireland minister in 1981 before retiring to become Lord Prior in 1987. He was 89 when he died.
And his Cabinet colleague Patrick Jenkin has also handed in his ermine at 90 years of age. Succeeding Sir Winston Churchill in Wanstead and Woodford in 1964 he was Heath`s Energy Minister during the 1974 miners` strike. He will sadly always be remembered for suggesting that people should “clean their teeth in the dark” during days of power cuts but he recovered from his “Marie Antoinette moment” and went on to become Secretary of State for Social services, Industry and the Environment under Margaret Thatcher.
“God`s Best PR Man in Britain”, Rabbi Lionel Blue is known best to listeners to “Thought for the Day” on BBC Radio 4`s Today programme. He has cracked his last wise at a sprightly 86 and as “a terrible broadcaster but a great communicator” will no doubt be raising chuckles in Elysium.
Georgios Kyriacos Paniyotou, better known as George Michael of Wham! Was found dead at his home in Goring on Thames at 53. The ex-busker who generated 100 million album sales was canonised in page after page of print in the tabloid press. His career can most safely be described as `chequered ` but he blazed a trail for the popular music culture when he became the first western artist to appear in communist China in 1985.
Rick Parfitt, who has rocked all over the world with Status Quo, is no longer with us. As he said a few months before his death “If you live the rock-and-roll lifestyle you end up paying the price and I am starting to pay”.
The Royle Family`s Nana, actress Liz Smith, won her first BAFTA award in 2009 having already been awarded an MBE in 1985.At 95 the Vicar of Dibley and many others will miss her.
And just when we thought that more than enough people had left us during December the author of Watership Down, Richard Adams closed his Bright Eyes for the last time at 96, Star Wars` Princess Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher had a heart attack on a transatlantic flight and was swiftly followed by her Mother, Debbie Reynolds, when she died in a San Francisco hospital. The Force, as one columnist said, has been dark this month.
The bell has tolled for the Whitechapel foundry, established during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First in 1570 and on its Whitechapel Road site in East London since 1738. It`s orders generally took more than eleven years from first inquiry to chiming bell with the longest commission requiring more than 100 years of craftsmanship. In addition to the world-renowned Big Ben, soon to be silenced during the restoration of the Palace of Westminster`s Clock Tower, the foundry has generated, during its lifetime, Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell hung in 1752 and the bells of the National cathedral in Washington. A tiny market and rising costs have finally muffled the business.